Student design is in great form – but do display it well

It’s been a great week for anyone concerned with the future of design. Signs from the graduate shows are that standards are up overall and that young designers being unleashed on the market are more self-assured and socially aware than previously.

These are sweeping statements. But designers visiting the Royal College of Art show reported an upsurge in ideas and links with industry, particularly in product design. It is also great to see architecture students broadening out to work with, say, product and textile designers.

Then there are the D&AD Global Student of the Year Awards. Congratulations to the top winners, graphic designers Klaas Diersmann and Sakuraku Haino and photographers Noemie Goudal and Rona McCall (see News in Depth, page 7). It’s good to see design pipping advertising to the post – and British colleges still leading the pack.

It’s all very encouraging, but, sadly, there is a downside in the way some colleges choose to present the work. D&AD’s New Blood show included great work, prompting optimism among those selecting the best from the show for wider airing. But some colleges missed the point, obscuring students’ work – surely the hero of the event – in stand designs that overwhelmed the projects or failed to include vital data.

Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication, with its slick, screen-based presentation, was the worst offender at New Blood – surprising for a college with such a strong reputation. Surely tutors know that graphics work needs to be seen and felt in actuality rather than squeezed into an on-screen grid of another person’s making – and with no portfolios to thumb through, students had little focus for dialogue with would-be employers.

Graduate shows are about getting work. Employers are looking for that elusive mix of talent and personality that is totally obscured when stand design takes priority. For once it is about the individual, not the team, so please, tutors, let the work do the job.

Lynda Relph-Knight, editor – Design Week

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